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Chinese Opera Won't Play In NY

A Shanghai opera troupe will not be allowed to come to America to perform a 22-hour Chinese opera billed as the centerpiece of this year's Lincoln Center summer festival.

CBS.com reports on President Clinton's trip to China
Lincoln Center officials had hoped the Chinese would relent and allow the The Peony Pavilion to come to New York in time to be performed as scheduled at Lincoln Center Festival 98.

But the Shanghai Bureau of Culture said Wednesday that the production will be uncrated and the actor-singers will rehearse the entire opera so Chinese officials could determine what revisions should be made in an opera deemed "feudal, superstitious, and pornographic" by the official Chinese press.

The Peony Pavilion, written by Tang Xianzu in the late Ming Dynasty, deals with a young woman who dies longing for ideal love. Her ghost finds the man of her dreams. She is brought back to life and they marry. Reports say there is one scene of lovemaking, behind a screen, and no nudity on stage.

The loss is a blow to the Lincoln Center, which spent about $500,000 getting the 1598 opera ready to be performed twice, with each performance broken up into six sections.

"Half a million dollars is a lot of money. More important is the artistic product," center president Nathan Leventhal said. "It would have been a great joy for thousands of people in this country who would have seen it."

Six tons of elaborate sets, props, and costumes were blocked from being shipped from Shanghai Airport last week. Nigel Redden, newly named head of the festival, and director Chen Shi-Zheng, who has been rehearsing members of the Kunqu Opera Company for nearly two years, went to China to try to resolve differences.

The production, which has 55 scenes, was to be mounted and rehearsed in New York prior to its scheduled opening July 7, the first night of the festival.

"In addition to the logistical impossibilities, Lincoln Center has grave concerns about participating in an exercise which attacks the artistic integrity of the work," a center statement said.

Written by Mary Campbell

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